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About two months ago I had one of my mentors say something extremely powerful to me, He mentioned how stuck I was, trapped in this cheap cage of mediocre success. The worse part was that he was right.
I am extremely grateful for that night. This person is Felipe Matos, COO of Startup Brazil.
Felipe, thank you for since that day, making me realize that life and my potential are much more than what is currently happening. The transition has already begun!
I recall five years ago when I decided to sell everything I had and move to the US without one single connection in this country. No fancy MBA or diploma.
I did not go to Stanford or Harvard. I used to be a journalist. So far, the more risk I took, the better the output was.
I had never started anything in my life before. One year later I started my first company and met several interesting people in Boulder. Six months later I was on the cover the equivalent of INC Magazine Brazil as one of the most promising entrepreneurs in my country. One year later we sold the company.
I was the first BD hire at a successful SaaS company that grew from 21 people (when I joined) to 300+ today.
After a bit of soul searching and lots of pain, a new path has begun.
I am teaching myself how to code and experimenting with projects. One step at a time, 1% better every day.
Making apps and new friends at night, while working during the day.
2014 was a year of fun, party and travel. It was an amazing year, but I distanced myself from my true purpose. 2015 is about focus, discipline and taking risk, one more time.
The nice part about it is that instead of having to do it from a shitty studio in Boulder, CO I get to be in San Francisco, an amazing city that
I truly learned how to love.
Rock on! Onward.
This AM, at about six', I felt like checking Facebook. If we've seen each other in the past month and a half, I probably told you that I decided to cut Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for 3.5 months.
But then I re-activated my Facebook account.
I was served only with crap and irrelevant posts on my timeline. It looked like Facebook had about 50 years old because that was the average age of the people I saw on my timeline.
Posts from a distant uncle, my mom's friends, random people that I don't even recall. There was also some close family things that I was already aware, because with or without Social Media we tend to keep in touch with the ones we care and love.
Algorithms need to training. Repetition is king. Like losing weight, the more you put effort towards it, the better it gets?
I just don't have any desire to "train Facebook" on my preferences.
Next Attempt: Instagram.
Today I woke up with a terrible stomachache. Not sure what is going on but if feels terrible and I am assuming that it has to deal with the 3 beers I had last night, with a couple of great friends that were visting from Brazil.
For the first time in a really long time I didn't have any breakfast and had a very light lunch. Definitely revisting my eating and drinking preferences. Better to nurture than hurt my body.
Let's be present.
Growing up is extremely painful. Personally or as a corporation, differences are very little in so many ways.
Currently, at SendGrid, we are at a stage where there is no more room for lack of excellence.
I was one of the few people that was very supportive and happy when they fired our former CEO (I really like him as person, but not as a leader).
Regardless, I did not expect that "the grind" was going to get this painful. We've always been too comfortable by having found early product market fit and have developed this toxic culture of being self centric instead of customer centric.
This past 3 months more than 15 people have left SendGrid (some were also fired) all due to various different reasons, but one thing is certain: we are changing rapidly and that's refreshing to see, but not pleasant to experience.
I am employee 22. We are almost at 300 people.
In change management about 35% of the people will churn out. The other 35% will sit and wait and make their decisions after some certainty has developed. I am part of the last 30%, the ones that embrace change and thrive from it.
Growth rates will slow down, but I am certain that we are building a better company, that is focused on becoming the absolute best email company out there.
I love this @avc tweet about different stages of financing.
So what are the Series C for? I would say that is the separation between the men and the boys. The time to develop operational excellence, to hit cash flow break even, to ship a couple of new products that will become profitable lines of business and to develop clear IPO predictability.
This week I am hoping for a bit more certainty, but things are starting to look like a very fun ride.
No pain, no gain.
This is not my first time taking a break from the social media firehose. About the same time last year, before going on the holiday break, I decided to deactivate Facebook and Instagram. This time I am taking up a step further and also deactivating Twitter.
I have been way too active on these platforms and have actually obtained very little value out of them.
I will be focused on more important projects than just sharing small little life blurbs of what I am up to, where I am going and the trivial content that you usually read on these channels.
My focus until March will be on:
- Actually focusing on 2015 resolutions to the fullest potential (more on that soon)
- Posting more here and on Tumblr
- Growing an email list
- Posting more videos on my YouTube channel
You can still find me at pedro [at] pedrosorren.com or if you have my phone number, find me on Telegram / WhatsApp / Viber
Let's Crush It.
Recently I was invited to speak at the AutoDevBot API Conference here in San Francisco regarding BD, API Distribution and how to get customers for your API related company.
There are way more than 10 things that you have to do in order to grow your customer count and be successful in the API Economy. That said, since every journey starts with a first step, here are some of the things that I believe apply to anybody wanting to start the next SendGrid, Twilio or Stripe.
If you don't want to read it, scroll down for the slides and full video of the presentation. ;-)
1 - Work on an universally distributed protocol
SMTP, SMS, Payments, Bitcoin, DNS, HTTP and the list goes on. All the top API companies are, for the most part, improving existing protocols or processes that have been in place for many years, not trying to create things from scratch. That way you start day one with massive distribution.
Email is huge and we are a big part of it. Today we send 2% of all non-spam email in the world. That's about 13 billion messages a month, give or take. Most people use email, most people use SMS, we use payment networks multiple times everyday and transactions will always need some sort of authentication.
2 - Add More Value Than What you Can Capture
I've talked here before about this excellent Tim O' Reilly Stanford talk. Major APIs are not supposed to just send data from point A to point B or just expose services requests and posts.
The future is depends on companies and technologies where 1+1=3 . Several of our customers were acquired (Instagram, Posterous, Slideshare, Summify, Pardot - to name a few) and if most of them had to build all their systems in house, most likely it would have taken much longer for them to grow exponentially.
Help people do their mission better and faster by focusing on the things that matter and your Developer centric API will get adoption.
3 - Be there Early
"Everywhere". That's probably one of the words I heard the most during my first year at SendGrid (I've been there for almost 3). That is our goal. Being the first partner of your category in multiple platforms has a lot of value. All of our very successful channel partnerships took time to become real money makers and being the first email tool there proved to be a very important piece of that.
Today we have full executive support to always do a deal with the new kids on the block that have growth potential. That's what happened with Heroku and SendGrid. We took an early bet (along with 8 other companies) on Microsoft Azure and it was a fantastic decision. Arrive early, stay late and help your partners.
At end of the day, specially in BD, "people are buying you they are not buying your product".
4 - Have Internal Resources that can Support You
I know a lot of BD guys that have a miserable job. Mainly because they work solo and have to Excel prove every deal that they want to execute on. But that's normal. The problem is when you have to beg for developer resources, marketing attention and support assistance to end up being perceived as "the partnerships dude".
To execute a good API partnerships you will need marketing, engineering, product, support and in some cases account management. Make sure that there is management buy-in, so that when you have to work with people they can understand the value of the work they are doing.
At SendGrid we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated team just for partnerships in almost all capacities. This way we can sell, operate and support 35.000 customers (just counting partner customers here) with a team of 4 .
Today we can co-sell to Fortune 500 companies via a partner channel and partner with a new platform that hasn't even raised their seed round at the same time.
5 - Service as a Software Matters
Being a SaaS company is great. If you have product-market fit and some venture capital, there is a good chance that you'll build a business that is predictable and runs with the most common Financial Performance Metrics for SaaS companies.
But one thing that makes a huge difference is your ability to become a services company at the same time that you scale. The ratio should be something in between 70-30 or 80-20. So about 1/4 of your company should be working on non-scalable solutions, such as account management, support and outbound sales.
Competition is very aggressive. Anything cloud, API or IT tends to get commoditized in about 5 years. We can't forget that there are humans on both sides of the table and your major accounts will count for most of your revenue. Give them a better SLA, prices, support and most importantly preferencial treatment on everything. But don't forget to kick ass on the core product, since self-service customers are fundamental for API companies.
6 - Sample Apps and Good Documentation
I am a big fan of smart laziness and so are most developers. Remember, you want your API to be the default answer for any problems it can solve. When we launch a deal we work on sample apps, documentation on our website, the partners website and a solid GitHub repo will make a difference.
If somebody searches for "how to send email on node.js" we should have a sample app for that, with a technical tutorial on the top 5 hosting companies documentation pages that are well known for Node apps.
Think about the questions that your customers will ask when building their apps and go become the default answers for that everywhere.
7 - Pay Attention to the "Why" of the Deal
Every partnership (for the most part) will be slightly different. It's important for you as a company to define the expected values that you want to get out of your partner deals. For SendGrid is usually a combination of revenue, awareness, customer acquisition at a lower cost, defensibility and corporate development potential
8 - Launching and closing is only the first step
It takes time. Sales cycles can be long and certainly there is that immense satisfaction when code is in production, the legal agreement is executed and a blog post is published or a press release syndicated. Regardless, the most successful distribution deals will require a steady level of maintenance. Pretty much the difference between farming and hunting. Both are important if you want to be able to feed the company with new customers and revenue channels.
9 - Learn how to say no
That's probably the hardest part of the job, but like Elad said some of the best deals are the ones that never happen. It's very important to be able to separate opportunities that are just noise versus working on deals that add value. My manager mentioned to me once (quoting a VC that I don't remember) that as an entrepreneur we are always looking for the "yes" and that VCs are always looking for a ways to say no, which perfectly makes sense to me.
That's why I am no longer default to yes in my life.
10 - Learn that "no" can always mean "not yet"
To be a great BD professional you have to be bullet proof when the topic of conversation is rejection, specially when trying to close new deals in verticals that you have no experience. Our best deals where the ones that took longer to close, but happened because we were patient enough that things worked out in the end for both sides. A lot of factor can influence the result of a deal.
For the most part it is more important to learn the reasons behind the "no" so you can turn them into a solid not yet, that eventually will be a yes.
This is a post inspired by a Tim O’Reilly talk at Stanford. Life is all about “adding more value than what you can capture”.
I won't focus on the business side of his talk, you can check that out by actually watching it.
The most fascinating part of it is the ability to create products that empower other people and companies to build things or do stuff that would not be possible otherwise. From cloud SaaS software all the way through education marketplaces.
At SendGrid our cloud email infrastructure allows companies like Pardot, Hubspot, Uber and Pinterest to scale, without having to focus on managing email servers for their apps. People build business on top of the platform and because of that they their organizations are empowered to achieve greater things faster, with a fraction of the cost and much more agility.
From moving over 1 billion emails for a single app in a month to selling their company for millions of dollars in less than 3 years (it happened already with multiple customers!)
Tim points out that it's all about “Workflow innovation and connectivity with computers” - But I see this also applied to the law of cause and effect and some of the Zen Buddhism principles.
Great software companies are able to change the world and generate positive karma while working on their mission.
This is why I've been fascinated with the Online Education market lately, it seems that democratizing education, empowering anybody to be a teacher and learning anything within a few clicks might be the best way to add more value than what you can capture.
It's that moment when a product becomes a platform. That's the beauty of APIs.
What loops can you close while empowering others to get smarter, better and faster at something?
Here is the full presentation "adding more value than what you can capture presentation"
I recently moved to San Francisco. Certainly I do not want to move back to São Paulo, Brazil — where I was born and raised — or to Boulder, Colorado where I spent almost 3 years going to grad school and working for SendGrid (which I still do). Love those places, but the plan is to establish my life in the Bay Area.
I’m a firm believer that here in SF you can find everything you need to be the best person you are destined to become.
A while back I had coffee with Shane Steele. She is awesome and a very experienced marketing professional having worked for Twitter (pre-IPO), Yahoo, Coke and some others. Probably one of the best pieces of advice she gave me was that in the early days in the Bay Area I should be “default to yes”.
When we talked about that in more details, the meaning of it took more shape. When things are new and fresh you should accept random invitations, not try to have total control over the people you meet as well as keeping a sane level of space and emptiness so new things can flourish in your life. Like a personal Sunyata for newcomers.
Personally I tend to be a bit of a control freak with my time and productivity, so taking that approach was certainly a challenge. That said, here are some of the things I've learned on the “default to yes mode” after 6 months in SF:
- Kayaking around the Bay Are is awesome, safe and totally possible
- In general people are very much open to meet for a cup of coffee
- You'll rarely make it to the South Bay, unless there is a business thing going on
- Being in SF makes things much easier if you work in tech. Synchronicity happens with much more frequency
- It’s very important to be able to build something (a blog, an app, events, art)
- Pay attention to events and learn how to filter the good and the bad, by attending some of the bad ones
- Don’t network for the sake of networking, make it relevant for some purpose
- Finding an unique voice in Silicon Valley is something very important and hard (still working on that)
- Help people without expecting anything in return
- If you are single (like me) do a healthy combination of offline and online dating - it’s the best way
- Enjoy a lot of the famous public events like Chinese New Year, Oktoberfest, St. Patricks, Santa Con
- Just show up!
- Do volunteer work
- Know how to pitch “you” in less than 2 minutes
- Organize parties
- Help friends organize parties
- Wait until visitors come to actually do all the touristy stuff
Important to say that "default to yes” does not mean saying yes to everything. It means being open to things that look and could be interesting, without letting go of your core principles and mission. I guarantee that some of that randomness will certainly help you find yourself faster. It’s been working for me and I plan to continue to welcome positive things in life.
The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows.
3 and a half weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted Instagram off my iPhone. It feels pretty great. (note, I began writing this post in December 18th, 2013 - but only really pulled the plug on December 30th, since I was meeting people in Italy, and Facebook was the only way to keep in touch, unfortunately)
My relationship with Social Media & Apps
“Wow you have so many apps on your phone” is probably one the most common lines I get if there is an acquaintance looking at my phone while I unlock it.
I’ve had 5 different blogs in my life. I’ve started online forums, Vimeo and You Tube channels. I even taught a social media class at São Paulo Digital School for PR professionals that was 100% of the times (fortunately) sold-out.
I’ve also came to the realization that constantly consuming social media is just like eating candy, it will bring you that instant gratification, but it’s not worth in the long haul. I’ve learned that after losing over 15lbs in 2013.
For about 3 years, I had an extremely weird ego-toxic morning routine. While still in bed I would check all the networks as soon as I woke up. It was like crack. Or some sort of attention-cocaine habit I could not get rid of. I would do an email dump, scroll through the messages, not open any of them, go to Facebook, read, but not reply to anything. Open Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram and sometimes OkCupid or Tinder.
After that, I would get up and go to the bathroom for the usual personal hygiene routine.
My relationship with work
I used to be that guy that was proud of never taking time off. I pulled it off for almost 4 years.
Work 12 hours a day? Yes! Inbox zero on Sunday? For sure. Canceling a vacation to Floranópolis with college friends to work alone on that side project during the holiday? Count me in! I was on the hustle train and felt unstoppable. Until of course, I crashed and burned out.
I must admit that I've been taking it slower in the past 3-4 months. I mean, in comparison to where I was before I know that I’ve significantly slowed down. I feel that now I am back at the beginning of my peak performance again, but it does take a while to recover from that entrepreneurial combo of "burnout-depression".
In between Q2-Q3 I just fell off the wagon of productivity and my email / work / social media life became extremely overwhelming. It was ridiculous, and I hated it.
The moment I decided that I had to change things for good: I took a vacation day from work (a Friday!), to secretly work, without people having to expect a response from me and on the same night had this “nightmare” about never being able to finish my inbox and tasks at hand.
I decided it was time to change things for good. GTD and David Allen helped quite a lot, as well as a productivity course I took with my friend Thiago Forte - By the way he is one of the best GTD consultants in San Francisco (In case you need some help as well).
Facebook became purely a newsfeed of egotistic updates or shitty jokes. I guess that’s what happens when most of your friends work in tech and own a startup. Instagram was also providing little value. Sure, I could see who was going to Bali, check out the snow in Boston or even remember how hot some of my Brazilian high school friends still look hot. However when scrolling pictures on Instagram, nothing real usually happens.
Maybe I am doing it all wrong but it became a major time-suck and energy drainer. I kept using the prime hours of my brain to do things that would just not bring anything back. It takes a while to get back into “focus-in-the-zone-mode” and there is a limited amount of decisions we can make on any given day, after just turning on the auto pilot (aka, poor judgement)
Social Media is the nicotine of our times and the cigarettes are the smartphones.
I felt like checking Facebook at least 6-8 times during the first days in addition to the 3-4 Instagram checks. Instead of doing that I actually followed up on important business deals, finished cleaning some spreadsheets and have 2 great in person meetings with people I haven't seen in a while.
Taking some "time off"
I went to Cuba and the Dominican Republic for a week during Thanksgiving and learned amazing things while there. I spent Xmas in Europe with my family . Before that I was in Austin to watch some Formula 1 with great friends and spent a couple of days in Denver to celebrate 2013 results and plan for 2014 with co-workers at SendGrid.
Vacation, resting and getting away from your own reality are extremely necessary things. As a matter of fact I am fascinated by this new concept I was introduced to called Vagabonding. Thank you Tim Ferriss for starting your own Oprah book Club.
I will return to all social media channels
I do actually a fair amount of business on Facebook and really engage with people that I legitimate care. I'm just not sure when I am actually going back, but for now this break feels pretty amazing and liberating form the usual FOMO that most of us that work in tech usually feel.
2013 was a very interesting year for for multiple reasons.
Probably one of my major victories was the fact that I lost almost 20 lbs (approximately 10Kg) during the year.
My first thought to mind was: how did I gain all his weight in the first place?
After I was able to reverse my H1-B visa denial in 2011, with the help of SendGrid and a letter of recommendation form a federal senator (than you Michael Bennett), I knew I was probably not that excited to go back to Boulder as I was to get back to my job at the time.
I just love big cities way too much and think that I got into a spiral of bad eating habits in 2012, more specifically from June until December. During that time, I probably put on 25-30 lbs in my body, important to notice that I was barely doing any physical activity.
As I look back into the reasons why I got chubby (no more!) in the first place, they have to deal with the fact that, during my second period in Boulder I was not able to develop any meaningful relationships outside of the business context. I hangout with friends and dated multiple women, but nothing was actually building real value, and I knew I had to change locations.
I was just overeating every night until I would pass out streaming Netflix.
Today I can securely say that I have transformed my life and habits regarding exercising and eating.
A program called Retrofit was extremely important on making those changes happen.
The first thing that probably motivated me was how expensive this program was. Every time my card got charged there was a mental reminder on why I've decided to make those changes a reality. I knew that once I got into the program and was super conscious about using it as a motivational trigger.
Retrofit takes the approach of "you can't improve what you can't measure" and it works extremely well. I got a FitBit, a Whitings scale and a Polar to start tracking all my activities. In addition to that, I began using RunKeeper for all my runs. I also gave the Jawbone up a try.
This was probably the most important aspect of habit change experienced. Tracking what is going on is as important as eating the right food and exercising. This way you can focus on repeating what works and drop what doesn't. It also holds you extremely accountable to yourself.
The online coaches and Skype sessions that the program offers were pretty fantastic. I am extremely grateful for Jaime, Matt, Val and Brandon for all the assistance support and patience with me. You guys rock and I want you to know that you've made a big difference so far in my life. Thank you for that.
Here are some of the changes that I incorporated in my life that led to good results on weight loss:
- Log your food in the first 3-5 months
- I mean, log everything you eat. This will give you visibility into portion control as well as make you more thoughtful when you are about to devour some fat-sugary-salty piece of food. Because of that I was able to balance my meals better and reduce by 20-30% the amount of food I was eating
- Start an extremely easy exercise routine
- Today I'm happy to say that I will exercise 4 to 5 times every week if not more. This certainly was the most challenging habit to form. In the early days, I would set challenges like "if I do 30 push-ups before I shower every day this week I've exercised". Usually what would happen is that I would be able to do always more than the plan. Even thought it was not a lot of exercises it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and created discipline. After 4-5 months of small goals, I was already addicted to the gym and began actively running.
- Share progress
- I connected my scale to all my Jawbone up friends so every time I weight, there is a group of 40ish people that receive a chart on how I am doing, regardless of the quality of the progress. The scale itself is already perfect to track that, but I found this extra step to be very effective
- Positive Triggers
- I would read motivational quotes everyday I woke up (I still do that). My social media channels were then flooded by fitness, determination and nutritional channels. Of course I didn't read or watched everything, but it was still a great way to surround myself with a positive influence
- Learn your bad habits as fast as possible
- his is a fundamental piece of the evolution. I've come to the realization that my worse habit was that I used to do a high caloric snack in between 11-12PM and that whenever I had more than 3 drinks, I would just eat anything. For the first 12 months, I didn't try to control all bad my habits I just went after the ones that I knew would bring the best ROI, once they were eliminated
- Start cooking some of your meals
- Probably the best way to control what you'll eat. I found myself eating much healthier when I cook the food than when I buy it. It will take almost the same amount of work in preparation, cleaning up and shopping, so why not make great choices for your body while at the task of cooking?
- Do it with a friend or somebody that will hold you accountable
- On this case I used Retrofit and technically paid for my fitness buddies, but you can do that with friends or find the necessary help online. Today I'm doing a series of goals together with my roommate for 2014 and we are holding each other accountable. That's a powerful way to approach goals and achievements, since doing it 100% by yourself is always harder.
Fantastic video about some of my favorite philosophers. As I withdrawn from Facebook and Instagram in January I've found myself with much more energy and going back to reading a lot as well as being more contemplative of what's around you.
Originally saw it on the great VIP Diretoria Blog (in Portuguese)